The Cambodia Initiation: My Most Embarrassing Moment Yet

A fart by any other name would smell as sweet.

diarrhea in cambodia

I have been living in Cambodia for two months now and just recently experienced the “ritual” that every person who decides to be here longer than a month goes through. That experience is known as “stomach adjustment” a.k.a. peeing out of your bum.

About a week ago, I was bed ridden in a fetal position for a total of 24 hours. Thankfully it was Water Festival so I didn’t have to be at school until Wednesday. My roommate, Alice was kind enough to feed me anti-cramping pills, which relieved a little of my pain. My abdomen felt like it was being punctured by a serrated knife and slowly being turned and knotted in the way that only extreme diarrhea can do. By the end of Tuesday, I was feeling a lot better.  I was determined to make it to work the next day, and knew the only way I would survive was if I didn’t eat anything and took miniscule sips of water.

Wednesday morning rolled around, and I headed to school as I always do by tuk-tuk with my loyal driver, Jeathsim. I got to school and headed to the teachers’ lounge where I talked with Teacher Gerry and graded papers.

My first two classes went smoothly. I had scattered cramps that were painful but manageable. After my second class, I went back to the teachers’ lounge to talk with whomever would listen. The warning bell rang and I headed to 3E with only a short 50 minutes between me and my glorious two-hour lunch break.

I get to 3E and started prepping for class as my students clamored into the classroom. As everyone got situated, the beginning-of-class ritual ensued:

Students in Unison (SIU): “GOOD MORNING TEACHA.”

Me: “Good morning, class. How are you?”

SIU: “I’M FINE AND YOU?”

Me: “I’m fine, thank you. Please be seated.”

SIU: “THANK YOU TEACHA.”

Me: “All right class, today we are going to learn…..”

As I continue, I can feel my stomach start to cramp, which I thought was a gas-cramp. At that exact moment I thought: if I fart, I will feel so much better, not to mention I knew it was going to be silent, so what did I have to loose? It wouldn’t be the first time I crop-dusted my students.

So I let it out and instantly felt better…until that unforgettable moment when I realized it wasn’t a fart. I felt so much better because I had just shat myself–while wearing khakis.

At this point I had just finished telling the kids what we were learning and what page to open to in the textbook. The original plan was to do this page together but with my current situation, they were left to their own devices to figure out why and how we ask “yes” and “no” questions. I told the kids to read and that I would be right back.

As I said this, I sidestepped towards the door with my back to the whiteboard. I slyly untucked my shirt and pulled it over my bum. I got out of the classroom and speed walked to the bathroom up three flights of stairs. Thankfully students and teachers were in class so the stairs were empty. I got upstairs in record time, locked the bathroom door, and looked at what a mess I was; and let me tell you, there was no way to hide my situation. It clearly looked like I had pooped my pants (because I had, so why would it look like anything different?)

In a desperate reaction, I took my pants off, tried to clean them in the sink and then put them on backwards hoping that I could hide it better if it was in the front. NOPE! It was 10 times worse and now my pants were wet and it was even more obvious. It was then that I realized that I would have to somehow MacGyver my way out of this uncomfortable situation.

I slinked back down to my class (by now 5 minutes had passed) and entered the classroom the same way I had exited. Thankfully they were exactly how I had left them.

By this time, survival mode had kicked in. There was no way that my kids could ever find out about this–otherwise, I would be done. Say what you will, but if one of my students saw, it would only be a matter of minutes before all of my 97 students, plus everyone else on campus knew. And from there, I would forever be known as the teacher that pooped her pants. I wasn’t ready to accept that title.

As my students saw me enter the class about 10 of them chirped, “Chur finish!” And I knew I had to think quickly. I backed myself in the front right corner and asked, “Who can tell me what a yes or no question is?”

As I spoke, I told my students to take notes, because if I wrote on the whiteboard I would expose my dark secret. I put them to task of writing 15 yes or no questions and as they started, I make a b-line to go talk to my TA.

I made it to the back after deflecting about 10  “Churs” from all directions. My tactic: telling them, “Try and look in your books at examples before asking me anything. You have to try for five minutes before asking me a question.”

I started to faintly whisper to my TA that I had to go home because I was sick and my stomach hurt. She replies “Oh teacha you need (does the hand motion for a tampon), I have.”

I kindly declined and tried and explain that it was not my period giving me issues but that… that…that I just threw up and had to go home.

“Oh, you tell Teacher Franz?” she asked.

“She wasn’t in her office…”

My TA’s response was a look that said, well you can’t leave all of these kids to me without telling Ms. Franz first.

I was in the back of the classroom, and I’d had five students ask me questions that I couldn’t be bothered with, as I was devising a plan to make it back to the front of the classroom without being spotted.

I looked to my right nothing, I looked to my left and there was my savior: a folding chair. I grabbed it, put it behind me, and started walking up the aisle banging into students, their desks, and backpacks, and apologizing as I went. I got to the front of the class, set up the chair, put my backpack on it, and sat down in the other chair, where I planted myself for the rest of the class.

Finally, the school bell rang and my students couldn’t leave quickly enough. With the last one out, I put on my backpack, hung it low (middle-school style), took my plastic briefcase, covered my bum, headed out of school, and hopped in my tuk-tuk. Within 30 minutes, I was home, showered and telling my roommate what had just happened. I was back at school before lunch was over, and no one had a clue.

I told my family and close friends about “the khaki incident” as soon as I could get them on the phone. After telling my mom the story, her first words to me were, “Caitlin, you know when you have diarrhea like that, you can never trust a fart.”

And how right she is.

Travel Tip #3

What is just as important as vaccinations when coming to Cambodia/Southeast Asia, or traveling in general? Traveler’s diarrhea medicine! It will save your life.  You need to have at least one, but depending on how long you’re going to be gone, get more. My doctor prescribed me three and I have only taken one since arriving.

And as my friend, Rick says, “Never trust a fart in Asia.”

To see this post on Pink Pangea please click: The Cambodia Initiation: My Most Embarrassing Moment Yet

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